Some concluding thoughts

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All the responses are erudite, knowledgeable and generous. All of the respondents are progressive thinkers with detailed understanding of developments relating to social work with children and families beyond my own base in the Republic of Ireland: England (Smith), Northern Ireland (Houston), Scotland (Woodward), Wales (Drakeford and Butler), elsewhere in Europe (Kessl, and Roets and Roose) and North America (Baines). It is, of course, impossible, to address all the issues raised in this short rejoinder, so the aim here is simply to address a handful of key points.

Some respondents imply that my perspective is rather gloomy, with Houston maintaining that there is a ‘heavy sense of pessimism’ emanating from my essay. More theoretically, according to Drakeford and Butler, my comprehension of hegemony may be too static and ‘overdeterministic’. Moreover, serving to dilute my deployment of the Bourdieusian idea that the state is a ‘battlefield’, I seem to argue that the ‘battle has already been concluded in favour of neoliberalisation’ .

My focus was on England and the Republic of Ireland, and in these locations, social workers seeking to create more progressive possibilities face considerable obstacles. Following Stuart Hall (2011, pp 727–8), it is clear that no:

project achieves a position of permanent ‘hegemony’. It is a process, not a state of being. No victories are final. Hegemony has constantly to be ‘worked on’, maintained, renewed and revised. Excluded social forces, whose consent has not been won, whose interests have not been taken into account, form the basis of countermovements, resistance, alternative strategies and visions … and the struggle over a hegemonic system starts anew.

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